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LA Theater Review


With book by James Lapine and William Finn, and music and lyrics by Finn, this musical centers on gay man Marvin (Jesse Einstein), who is surrounded by his young son, Jason (Major Curda); his ex-wife, Trina (Lani Shipman); his lover, Whizzer (Richard Hellstern); his psychiatrist, Mendel (Chip Phillips); and the "lesbians next door," Dr. Charlotte (Kim Reed) and her lover, kosher caterer Cordelia (Wendy Rosoff).

The 1992 musical is noteworthy for its ability to treat serious themes lightheartedly—at least till AIDS enters the picture—with lyrics that are as clever and funny as they are perceptive. Marvin is a greedy Peter Pan, who wants it all. Even though he began his affair with Whizzer while still married to Trina, he's devastated to discover that she's now marrying his psychiatrist. Jason must puzzle his way through the collateral damage.

Director Richard Israel has produced a near-flawless production, with a wonderfully gifted ensemble cast. Einstein keeps Marvin likeable, despite his flaws, and performs strenuous choreography. Shipman is hilarious and wryly sympathetic as Trina, and Hellstern provides the requisite charm as Whizzer.

Curda is a live wire, junior grade, as the boy confused by discovering his dad is gay, struggling with preparations for his bar mitzvah even as he attempts to learn baseball. And Phillips' Mendel is as plagued and confused as his patients. Reed inspires dread with her effectively understated song about the AIDS crisis, "Something Bad Is Happening," while Rosoff scores comic points with her "nouvelle bar mitzvah cuisine."

Gregory Nabours provides the impeccable music direction and plays keyboards along with Brian Morales on reeds and percussionist Brian Cannaday. John Todd supplies crisp and witty choreography, and Kurt Boetcher designed the cheerily efficient set.

Presented by and at Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., West Hollywood. Sept. 9-Oct. 16. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (888) 718-4253.

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